Amazon is firmly entrenched as the infrastructure as a service market leader, but Google's Cloud Platform has gotten the attention of AWS shops lately.
Google reached an important milestone at the end of last year with the general availability of its Google Compute Engine (GCE) infrastructure as a service (IaaS) offering. Previously, it also had offered platform as a service with Google App Engine.
Now, Amazon Web Services (AWS) shops that have considered GCE say they've seen impressive network performance, in part because Google's network traffic passes over its own fiber rather than traversing the public Internet. Each GCE instance is also attached to a single network that spans all regions without VPNs or gateways as middlemen.
AWS has storage and flexibility absolutely nailed down, but … GCE is coming on strong.
chief cloud architect, AMAG Pharmaceuticals
"AWS has storage and flexibility absolutely nailed down, but … GCE is coming on strong," said Nathan McBride, VP of IT and chief cloud architect at AMAG Pharmaceuticals, a commercial drug research company based in Waltham, Massachusetts.
While AWS meets AMAG's performance needs, McBride said fellow IT pros in the video streaming business he consults with are evaluating Google IaaS closely and AMAG will also keep an open mind about GCE.
"We are building our own commercial data warehouse right now, in AWS, and there is some potential concern internally over whether or not it will be scalable beyond two commercial drugs," McBride said. "It is an ongoing discussion."
Indeed, Google is gaining on AWS.
"Google's competitive behavior -- big price cuts, an emphasis on engineering and looking to match Amazon's services -- makes it the most directly analogous competitor [to AWS]," said John Treadway, senior vice president at Boston-based cloud consulting firm Cloud Technology Partners.
However, the market is mature enough that many IT buyers have already chosen a vendor and spun up a public cloud infrastructure, which can be stickier than people think, pointed out Aaron Rankin, CTO of Chicago-based Sprout Social Inc., which markets a social media management tool. Sprout mainly uses Rackspace Hosting for its cloud workloads, though it has some AWS instances as well.
"We might be able to reap some benefits, such as cost savings, by switching to Google or Amazon from Rackspace, but it's not so significant that it's worth our time and effort now," Rankin said.
Still, "if I could start all over again right now, I'd probably go with Amazon, but I'd also consider Google," Rankin said.
AWS maintains a healthy lead in IaaS
Google's Cloud Platform may have started to sneak up on AWS, but Amazon has a seven-year lead in the IaaS market, and it shows. AWS has many more availability zones and regions available globally than GCE, for example, and offers a number of services, such as the Simple Email Service and the CloudFront content delivery network that Google has yet to match.
Even support for Windows workloads is not yet a part of GCE -- AWS has offered Windows instances for years, even offering micro Windows instances as part of its Free Usage Tier.
"AWS has a more complete and enterprise-grade portfolio," said Jillian Mirandi, analyst with Technology Business Research, Inc. based in Hampton, New Hampshire. "[It also has] a more mature operational model including a clear enterprise strategy, a growing direct sales team and a small, but growing consulting team."
Google's perceived edge in network performance also may not last long. AWS customizes its networking equipment as well as the protocols that travel over it to boost network performance and also owns its own fiber between availability zones. AWS doesn't mirror across regions as GCE does because of customer concerns about data localization; customers concerned about network performance can also provision network IOPS for specific applications.
"Google started later and made some advances," Treadway said. "But I expect that Amazon is working on this and that there will be performance leapfrogs."
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